Students Protest Senate Bill 5 in Wilder Bowl

Jessica Lam, Staff Writer

With chants of “Kill the bill” and “I say budget, you say bullshit,” a march for solidarity with the unions to be affected by Senate Bill 5, along with a discussion panel with several faculty members from the politics department and the president of OCOPE, took place on Monday in Wilder Bowl.

S.B. 5, a bill facing the state legislature in Ohio similar to the controversial legislation being debated in Wisconsin, would limit the collective bargaining rights and prohibit negotiation over health care benefits of unions. Senate Bill 5 has passed the Senate, and the House will begin committee hearings on the bill next week.

Republican Governor John Kasich, who claims that these measures are necessary to fix Ohio’s budget problems, said in an interview with CNN’s Jessica Yellin that the bill “is all about restoring some balance to the system.”

But Politics professor Marc Blecher said he sees it as a classic case of blame-the-victim. He cites Kasich’s involvement with Fox News and his role in using his political connections to invest $480 billion dollars of Ohio’s state pension funds with Lehman Brothers, his former employer. All of the money was lost. “[Kasich] is the quintessence of the complete corruption and degradation of democracy in this country,” said Blecher.

For fellow Politics professor Stephen Crowley, the issue is about more than just collective bargaining. “It is fundamentally about power and about whether we have a democracy in something more than name in this country,” he said.

Crowley noted that there have been comparisons drawn between the protests in Wisconsin and Ohio and the events in the Middle East. Despite the obvious differences, he said the protesters shared a common motivation — their sense of inequality. “The levels of inequality are even higher [in this country] than they are in the Middle East,” he stated, adding that, historically, inequality rates went down when the unions were strong.

According to Suzanne Overstreet, president of OCOPE, unions have always set the standard for wages and benefits. She warned that without collective bargaining rights, the wages for union and non-union workers will go down. Added Overstreet, “An injury to any union member is an injury to all of us.”

College senior Shannon Ikebe, one of the organizers for this event, said he agrees. “I think SB-5 is the most important issue that is facing Ohioans now. It’s not just about public sector workers, it’s about our collective future,” Ikebe said.